Redesign in works for communism memorial

The controversial Memorial to the Victims of Communism — to be titled Canada, a Land of Refuge — is one step closer to being built.

Tribute to Liberty, the charity dedicated to raising $1.5 million to build the memorial, has announced a new phase of planning to set construction timelines and a framework for the latest design competition — including finalizing the guidelines and selecting a new jury. 

The memorial is meant to honour the millions of people who suffered under communist regimes, many of whom immigrated to Canada.

The design competition and fundraising needed to begin anew after reducing space and budget. 

A previous design competition was held in 2014, when the memorial was expected to be built adjacent to the Supreme Court of Canada along the north side of Wellington Street. 

A design was chosen, created by ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture, but it was shelved in 2015 when the new federal Liberal government announced that the memorial’s location would be shifted west to the Garden of the Provinces and Territories, on the south side of Wellington. 

The memorial has been a source of contention since 2014, when Ottawa architect Barry Padolsky wrote an open letter to then prime minister Stephen Harper about his concerns over the memorial’s planned location near the Supreme Court. 

“We also await your explanation of why the chosen site, approximately 5,000 square metres in area, was stolen from its intended use as the location for a future Federal Court building or other national institution,” wrote Padolsky in the letter.  

A wave of support followed the letter, with many local residents demanding a more appropriate place for such a controversial monument. 

Padolsky partnered with Heritage Ottawa, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and fellow architect Shirley Blumberg to file an injunction against the federal government to save the location for the long-planned court building.  

“We at the coalition wished to express our support for the preservation of the (court building) plans,” says Linda Dicaire, a Heritage Ottawa board member. “We did not express an objection to the monument.” Construction of the memorial was postponed until after the 2015 federal election. 

In December 2015, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced the shift to the Garden of the Provinces and Territories — the site that had been initially identified for the memorial before the spot near the Supreme Court emerged as the former Conservative government’s preferred location. 

Located across from Library and Archives Canada and set between Wellington and Sparks streets, the Garden of the Provinces and Territories was completed in 1962 as a western gateway to Parliament Hill, and to remind Canadians that each province and territory contributed to Canada’s evolution, according to the National Capital Commission.  

The Tribute to Liberty newsletter says that the memorial’s proponents plan to reveal the winning design next year. According to the NCC, the hope is to have the memorial built by 2018, just after Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. 

Chung Hung’s art installation titled Twelve Points in a Classical Balance is currently situated in the garden, but will be relocated to make room for the memorial. 

“We were reassured that the monument would be redesigned in order to be tailored to the site and that it would be located at the west end,” says Dicaire.

“It seemed like a reasonable compromise. (But) the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.”